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Xena: small cloned piglet

On 2 July 2000, a small black piglet was delivered by a white sow. Xena's dark color was a clue that she was not the warrior princess whose name she bears but the product of the first successful pig cloning from fetal cells. As reported in the 18 August Science, this cloning adds to reports of cloned sheep, cattle, and goats (Onishi et al, Science 2000, 289:1188-1190). Xena was produced using a technique developed in mice in which a nucleus from a somatic cell is microinjected into an enucleated

By | August 21, 2000

On 2 July 2000, a small black piglet was delivered by a white sow. Xena's dark color was a clue that she was not the warrior princess whose name she bears but the product of the first successful pig cloning from fetal cells. As reported in the 18 August Science, this cloning adds to reports of cloned sheep, cattle, and goats (Onishi et al, Science 2000, 289:1188-1190). Xena was produced using a technique developed in mice in which a nucleus from a somatic cell is microinjected into an enucleated oocyte. This technique contrasts with the cell-fusion method used to produce Dolly the sheep. It took the transfer of 110 embryos to produce one live cloned piglet. But if the process can be made more efficient, Xena's creators hope to use cloning to propagate pigs with good growth characteristics, and to make genetic changes that will allow pig organs to be used in xenotransplants.

But the wisdom of using the clones as xenotransplant donors is in doubt because of transmission of a pig retrovirus to immunocompromised mice. In a battle of the press embargoes, publication of the Onishi paper in Science led Nature, to reveal that they will soon be publishing a paper from a group at PPL Therapeutics that reports use of a double nuclear transfer procedure from cultured cells to produce a litter of five cloned piglets. But in the same issue of Nature, Daniel Salomon of the Scripps Research Institute and colleagues will report that a porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV) can infect human cells in co-culture and, after transfer of pig pancreatic islets to immunocompromised mice, mouse cells in vivo. Although pig-derived xenotransplants would be less likely to be rejected after modification by gene targeting and cloning, the fear of transferring infectious agents may prompt some researchers to back off from xenotransplantation. Indeed, the upshot of some rather muddled comments from Ian Wilmut and Geron Bio-Med of Dolly fame seems to be a decision to abandon their pig xenotransplantation program.

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